Updated: Jul 3
What do you think of when you think of Jesus' life as a boy and growing into maturity as an adult?
Christians focus on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ every year at Christmas. Some even want to leave Him in the manger and not think about Him again until the next Christmas.
Then at Easter we focus on the three years of His earthly ministry and His death for us on the cross. And there are those who want to leave Him on the cross until the next Easter.
We know that Jesus was God incarnate and that He lived a sinless life, but I think one of the difficult things for believers to deal with is the humanity of Jesus.
Paul wrote in Philippians 2:7-8 that Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus was, in fact God but He was also a man; a human being, just like you and me. I believe it’s important for us to have an understanding of His life as a human in order to fully understand what He did for us – not only on the cross but during His life as a man.
For most of my Christian life I have thought about Jesus’ life from the time He was 12 years old until He was 30 and began His ministry. What did He do during those 18 years?
We don’t know because we have no record of His life during those years. But is it possible to infer what His life was like from Scripture? I think we can learn a great deal from four key verses about His life as a man:
Luke 2:51 and 52; “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Luke 3:23; “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph.”
Mark 6:3; “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?”
The key words in these verses are submissive (subject), obedient, increased, wisdom, stature, and favor.
Now, let me be crystal clear that this is not one of those issues that we should consider as a deal breaker. What I am going to present for your consideration is my own personal belief based on my study of Scripture. You are free to accept or reject it as you see fit.
The last recorded event before the so-called 18 years of silence is in Luke 2:41 and 42, “Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.”
We’re all familiar with what happened when His parents discovered that He wasn’t with them on their return journey to Nazareth. Jesus had stayed at the temple in Jerusalem and “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and answers” as recorded in Luke 2:47.
Then we have this statement in verse 51, “And He (Jesus) went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” (Joseph and Mary). Which leads us to verse 52 that says, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”
The Greek word translated “submissive” or “subject” in verse 51 is hupotasso and is of some significance. It means to “place in order or to place under in an orderly fashion or to obey.” It’s significant because its meaning in this verse is identical to the word used for “obey” in Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” and Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
Even though Jesus stood in a very special relationship with His earthly parents, He was still under their authority. He willingly and appropriately submitted Himself to their parental authority. And what an example this is for us when we have difficulty submitting ourselves to those in authority over us.
Now, remember the last part of Philippians 2:8 that says, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient.”
This raises the question; to whom did Jesus become obedient?
He obviously was always obedient to God the Father, but I believe this also means that He was obedient to human authority and especially his parents Joseph and Mary.
And what did that mean insofar as His daily life was concerned?
Well, we know that Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters from Mark 6:3, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?”
Was Jesus exempted from the daily chores His brothers and sisters did each day or did He participate?
I believe He was a full participating and contributing member of the family and did whatever His parents told Him to do. If you can agree with me on that, the rest of what I have to say will make more sense to you.
Luke 2:52 is full of meaning when you look at individual words and understand their meaning in the Greek language. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” The words I want to focus on are “increased, wisdom, stature,” and “favor.”
The Greek word prokopso translated “increased” is a very significant word and comes from two Greek words, pro meaning “before” or “forward” and kopto meaning “to cut, strike, impel.” So, the Greek word prokopso means “to beat or drive forward as if with repeated strokes, to go forward or further, make progress, proceed.”
It’s rather like having a machete in your hand and cutting your way through a forest and making a path where there has never been a path before, always with the idea of carving out something new. As used here it conveys the idea of carving out a totally new path for the human race.
Next, we have the word translated “wisdom” which comes from the Greek sophia. This little word is full of meaning. It means a person who has “skill, tact, expertise in any art. Skill in the affairs of life, practical wisdom, wise management as shown in forming the best plans and selecting the best means, including the idea of sound judgment and good sense. In a higher sense, wisdom, deep knowledge, natural and moral insight, learning, science, implying cultivation of mind and enlightened understanding. In respect to divine things, wisdom, knowledge, insight, deep understanding, represented everywhere as a divine gift, and including the idea of practical application.”
So as Jesus “increased” – He carved out a new path – in both earthly wisdom and spiritual wisdom as a man.
The next word is “stature” and comes from the Greek helikia which means “adult, full-aged, maturity of life, mind or person.” Simply stated, Jesus grew up physically as well as emotionally and spiritually.
Then we have the word “favor” which comes from the Greek charis which we usually take to mean “grace or gift.” But it really means much more than that and as used here it conveys the meaning of “having favor, goodwill, benevolence toward another.” So, Jesus not only found favor or grace before God, but He also found favor before His friends and neighbors – simply put, Jesus was popular and well-liked by those with whom He had contact.
I believe Luke 2:51-52 gives us a picture of the 18 years of Jesus’ life from age 12 until age 30. In those 18 years He was increasing – going forward and carving out a new path – a path that was a path of wisdom, of growth in stature and in favor with God and men.
By Pastor Bob Young
Part II tells us much more about Jesus’ 18 years of silence.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.